Early Twenty-First-Century Literary Images from the Margins of the Russian (Orthodox) World
The paper analyzes two artistic artefacts, one graphic reportage and one novel from and about post-Soviet Georgia, focusing on the problem of religious difference within Orthodox Christianity. In imperial history, the fact that Georgia is an Orthodox Christian country was employed by the Russian side to legitimate the Georgian Church’s inclusion into the Russian ecclesiastic hierarchy and, what is more, of Georgia into the Russian empire. Georgian Orthodoxy was thus at least partly and in certain periods denied its religious autonomy. This parallels other strategic renouncements of differences from the Russian side, as for instance in the contemporary usage of the concept “Russian World” that combines the claim of “unity in faith” with language use and cultural consciousness into a mobilizing nationalist trope. The analysis of Viktoria Lomasko’s travel feature about Georgia and of Lasha Bugadze’s documentary novel “A Small Country” shows how contemporary artists and writers reassess the question of Georgia’s religious heritage and its difference from the Russian religious heritage. Whereas Lomasko is critical of the Georgian Church’s moral authority, she also gives ample room for presenting Georgian Orthdoxy’s difference as advantageous with regard to the Russian Church. Bugadze, by contrast, scrutinizes the Georgian Church’s fatal entanglement with the state that engendered both, nationalism and an uncanny allegiance with Russia.